As part of a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship Ian Irvine, Operations Manager, Turning Point Scotland travelled to cities in both Canada and United States to find out how they are addressing homelessness.

Ian visited housing projects in Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and New York that are operating Housing First and other related homelessness services.

Housing First provides rented housing and support and began in New York in response to the volume of homeless of individuals who presented at the psychiatric hospitals, suffering severe or enduring mental illness and addiction.

Ian said:

“Four years ago whilst on holiday in New York I visited the two services providing Housing First support and saw for myself the inspiring work they are doing.

I returned home confident that Housing First would work in Scotland.

Since then links have been established by Turning Point Scotland and other Housing First services throughout Europe.”

In the Glasgow Housing First service individual service users are provided with a permanent tenancy by a registered social landlord with the housing support coming from Turning Point Scotland.

The aim of Ian’s trip to North America was to learn from the breadth of Housing First services, so that their relevance might be assessed for the Scottish and British settings.

He assessed that the existence of clear homelessness legislation, policies and practices in Scotland and variety of available social housing, provides a positive setting for further Housing First initiatives.

All cities Ian visited had developed Housing First initiatives (often titled Pathways to Housing) primarily for those with mental illness and, given the volume of injecting heroin in Vancouver, it had included those who misuse substances.

In every city Ian did a number of ‘shadow’ visits with agency staff and was able to spend time with those using the service.

“Minneapolis particularly has developed Housing First services for homeless families and I was both highly impressed but also clear of its relevance to Scotland

Each year the United States does a head-count of those who are homeless.

In 2011 within that there were 70,000 homeless veterans identified and there was a major public reaction. Funding was made available and in Philadelphia the Pathways to Housing service provides that support.”

Many of the Veterans Ian met suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder in addition to other mental illnesses or substance misuse.